Human Rights Violations in China Political Repression in China

Google in China: A Dream, or a Nightmare?

“No Google in China! Oh, no. I cannot live there.” This was often the response of my American friends and colleagues when I told them that Google was banned in China. To freely enjoy Google is a dream for Chinese. However, this dream may not come true, because the Chinese government will not follow what used to be Google’s principle, namely, “Don’t be evil.”

According to the New York Times (November 17, 2014), a Chinese American scientist, Dr. Fei-Fei Li, together with her team from Stanford University, published a research paper about using “the pixel data in images and video” to “illuminate” the internet. Dr. Li also expressed that she wanted her motherland (i.e. China) to benefit from the technology of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and image recognition. John Markoff, the author of the article on the New York Times, warned us, “In the longer term, the new research may lead to technology that helps the blind and robots navigate natural environments. But it also raises chilling possibilities for surveillance.”

On June 14, 2014, the China’s State Council issued an outline for the national social credit system. The system uses AI and image recognition to monitor and collect data of Chinese citizens. The Chinese government planned to complete the social credit system by 2020. When that time comes, every Chinese citizen will have a searchable file of amalgamated data from public and private sources. The system will track and monitor what every Chinese user say on the Internet and social media.

In fact, China’s social credit system has already taken shape; this Orwellian surveillance machine has become the dystopian nightmare of the Chinese people. On September 11, 2018, four days after a Beijing resident used a special internet software to twit and criticize the Chinese government online, the police arrested him. This fall, a freshman who majored in civil engineering was expelled from Hunan City University just after he posted something on Twitter-like Weibo; his post included a simple statement that “I won’t be patriotic my whole life.” Professors in economics and political science in the Chinese universities were fired and were accused of publishing “politically incorrect views” online.

“Don’t be evil!” This used to be a principle held by Google, but the company reportedly erased this principle. In 2017, the Google AI China Center was opened under the leadership of Dr. Li, who advocated “AI and its benefits have no borders.” However, this no-borders theory is based on a hypothesis that the technology tool is in the hand of good people. As is known, if companies like Google and Facebook want to do business in China, they must follow the strict censorship of the Chinese government and submit their users’ data to the government. My question here is how Dr. Li and her Google team escaped from the evil Chinese government and opened an AI center in Beijing, China.

The best answer I found is from an anonymous writer using “Mal Ware” as his or her penname. “With China’s non-existent intellectual property laws, any firm that does business with or in China could be unwittingly supporting the most advanced surveillance state in the world. Or, they could be training the software engineers who will. Greed and naivety can be a dangerous combination.”


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